Police on the Gold Coast are raising alarm about a new "mystery drug" that landed 16 people in hospital over the weekend. There are reports that five people overdosed at a house party in the suburb of Mermaid Waters, and three "Victorian footballers" at the Islander Hotel in Surfers Paradise. Emergency services had to chase down another person who was trying to run into oncoming traffic.
"In the last 24 hours it was the largest cohort of similar drug overdose incidents I've seen in my 24 years working on the Gold Coast," veteran paramedic Stephen Burns told the Gold Coast Bulletin. With some 25,000 teenagers set to arrive to the Queensland town for Schoolies next month, there's serious concern these overdoses may signal the arrival of the synthetic stimulant flakka.
Toxicology reports are yet to come back but all of the drug's headline-grabbing characteristics do seem to be there—the hallucinations, fearlessness, super strength. These reports aren't the first suspected flakka overdoses in Australia, but they would be the most widespread. It's speculated those who overdosed may have thought they were taking MDMA—with locals warning others to steer clear of pills with clovers, Pac Man, Playboy, or Rolex stamped on them.
Flakka started getting media attention in 2015, after a string of news reports that started in the US state of Florida. Videos emerged online of "zombie-like" people in the throws of intense psychotic episodes—one broke into a police station, another brandished a gun naked on the roof of a house.